Saturday, December 5, 2009

In praise of coffee shops

When I first moved to Seattle, I hated going to Starbucks. Four bucks for a cup of coffee (and I wasn't really passionate about coffee that much to begin with)? Why is this place so popular?

Well, I still don't completely understand the grab-and-go customers of Starbucks, but I totally get the appeal of a coffee shop. For four bucks you can rent a table and a relatively quiet and serene atmosphere. I am, presently, sitting at a coffee shop right now writing this post, and Amanda has been using Tully's for writing for the better part of this year.

I also spent nearly a year meeting with my small group at Chocolati on Wednesday evenings, and more than once we would meet one-on-one with small-group leaders for coffee. I've met up with other folks for business (real estate agent, auditor) and for community bonding (planning a fund raiser).

Just as parks and open spaces are a good for the public, coffee shops fill the need in drizzly Seattle at a reasonable price. It is a community good. And perhaps the most interesting detail I discovered about Starbucks is that their rapid expansion didn't put mom-and-pop coffee shops out of business usually. Rather, the introduction of the Starbucks would change the culture in a neighborhood so that more people would get used to going out for coffee, and then, finding the Starbucks too crowded and/or trendy, would frequent the local shop instead.

Instead of there being a finite number of coffee drinkers in the world that Starbucks was competing for, it created new coffee drinkers / casual hangout dwellers. I know because I am one of them. Starbucks has more or less served as an advertisement for a certain ethos that has spread and that all can enjoy. Nice work.

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